Tuesday, September 16, 2008

From Watchdog to Lapdog

Columnist Mike Masterson is having one of his good days, and his words today ring true in our little corner of the state. "Sad to say that the medium that historically exposed corruption, prompted social reforms and helped preserve an informed democracy has all but abandoned its First Amendment obligations," he laments. "Where are all the newspaper exposés, the subsurface reporting so prevalent in our culture just two decades ago? Where are the watchdog reporters whose courageous work made them invaluable to our culture and republic? ...After 38 years in this business, I assure you that there has been profound backsliding in the quality, courage and effectiveness of newspaper reporting across the nation. Instead, the 'official version' is passed off as truth. As a result, credibility, circulation and our very democracy have suffered."

"Things changed after mega-corporations began buying and then quickly flipping newspapers for millions in profits," he explains. "The biggest losers were, naturally, the readers who for decades had relied on their papers to inform them and to keep governments honest. Also losing were the newspapers themselves because they chose to abandon the very product that made them uniquely necessary to society. ...Most newspaper watchdogs have been defanged. Their raspy bark is barely audible. Elected officials smirk and do pretty much as they please and go unquestioned. "

"Perhaps this disturbing decline of my beloved profession might be reversed with a return to our First Amendment obligations. But first the newspapers must recognize that each of them is like an individual. It reflects a heart and a soul as well as its own distinctive personality and character, or lack thereof. To succeed, it must demonstrate uncommon courage, devotion to truth and integrity upon which the people can wholeheartedly rely to place their interests and needs foremost. Otherwise," Masterson concludes, "we might as well be peddling sweet, fluffy Krispy Kremes."

It is a smear on good name of Krispy Kremes to compare them to the once proud independent voice that has become the obsequious Northwest Arkansas Times.

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